|Yeshiva Ohr Tmimim: Vayikra|
|Written by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton|
This week's section begins the third and central book of the Five Books of Moses. While the first two were mainly filled with stories, here we have only commandments.
Some Chassidim say that this is G-d's way of telling us that the only way to properly fulfill the commandments is by first learning stories about Tzadikim.
For instance, in this week's section we have a mysterious phrase describing the sacrifices;
"A pleasing smell to G-d". (1:9)
Rashi explains that G-d is saying that HE gets PLEASURE when His Will is done.
What does this mean? G-d is supposed to be infinite and certainly lacks nothing. How can we give Him pleasure? How can He get anything from us?
To understand this here is a story I heard from Rabbi Mendel Glukoski some ten years ago:
The small room was crowded but no one spoke. Only the difficult breathing of the old man on the bed broke the almost serene silence. Old Shlomo was dying. Several Rabbis of the Holy Society were standing around him silently reading Psalms, and behind them stood his family, but it was only a matter of minutes now.
For those of you that don't know, the "Holy Society" means the funeral staff. Traditionally in Judaism this task was (and still is) reserved for only the holiest and most spiritual of Jews, and here they were none other than the holy Tzadik Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Braditchev and nine of his pupils.
Suddenly the Rabbi broke the silence and leaning toward the dying man spoke forcefully..
"Rav Shlomo! Rav Shlomo! Why are you sad?"
Everyone had noticed that tears were streaming down Shlomo's cheeks but no one made much of it.
"You should be happy!" continued the Rabbi, "Everyone has to die sometime. You've lived a long fruitful life. Here, just look at your beautiful family! So why are you so sad? Why are you crying?"
"No no, not because of that!" the old man whispered. "Thank G-d, Thank G-d I'm not complaining. G-d forbid. It's just that, well...the Torah and the commandments...I never really cared. I always had other things on my mind. Who knows if I'll go to Heaven? Who knows? And even if I do, I'm pretty sure that it's not going to be very bright for me there." The tears kept running down his cheeks.
"Ahhh! That's your problem?" exclaimed Rav Levi Yitzchak. "How would you like my Heaven?"
"Ehhh!?" exclaimed the old man with all the surprise he could muster up.
"That's right, how would you like my Olom Ha Ba (world to come)?" repeated the rabbi.
"Ehhh?" Said Shlomo as his eyes widened and he raised his head slightly. "Ca..can you do that? Is such a thing possible? Are…. are you serious?"
"Certainly!" said the Tzadik as he turned to one of his pupils and asked him to bring a pen and a piece of paper. In just minutes he was dictating; "write, 'I Levi Yitzchak ben (son of) Sarah do hereby give my entire place in Heaven to Shlomo ben ehh…' what is your mother's name?" Ahh yes! Shlomo ben Yenta, right?" Old Shlomo shook his head in astonished agreement as the Rabbi told his pupils to sign the deed. .
A warm smile of gratitude spread over his face as he took the precious document from the rabbi. If he had any energy left in his drained-out body he would have begun dancing. He gave one last loving glance at his benefactor, another at his family as though to say everything was all right, said the final "Shma Yisroel" prayer, closed his eyes and blissfully passed on to his now significantly increased heavenly reward.
Later that day, after the funeral, his pupils asked their master if he could explain. What type of merit did old Shlomo have that he deserved such a gift? Perhaps he did some unique deed or special mitzvah? It must have really been something unique, after all Rabbi Levi Yitzchak's afterlife was no small gift!!
"Maybe" answered the Tzadik, "But I don't know what it was."
"You don't know?" blurted out one of his pupils in disbelief, "Then why did you give him your entire heaven?!!"
"Well" answered Rav Levi Yitzchak "It's simple. I just reasoned that G-d loves the Jewish people. So to make a Jew happy, even for a few moments, was worth my entire world-to-come. That's why I gave it to him."
Of course this is a very strange idea. A great tzadik like the Rabbi of Braditchev certainly had a very clear idea of the infinite pleasures awaiting him in the afterlife. But he gladly lost it all in order to make….. G-d happy !
But really he wasn't the first to do so. The first was Abraham the founder of Judaism. He was willing to sacrifice his only son because he knew it would please G-d.
In other words, this phenomenon is the foundation of the Jewish people. And it makes sense as well.
The essence of Judaism is that G-d and His Torah (and the Jewish people) are alive.
NOT that G-d just created the world 5000 plus years ago, gave the Torah 3000 plus years ago and since then occasionally gets involved. But rather, that He creates EVERYTHING (including the spiritual worlds) CONSTANTLY. And His inner true reason for doing so is the Torah.
In other words, G-d has a living personality (the mystics call it His ten "spherot"), the deepest aspect of it is HIS pleasure, and ONLY the Jews (and those attached to them through the seven Noahide commandments) can arrouse it.
That is why the Torah cannot be fulfilled properly without first reading the stories of the forefathers. Because without these stories we can think that G-d is infinately distant from us and the best we can do is to receive pleasure in the world to come (like the other religions belive).
But the Forefathers teach us that G-d is infinitely CLOSE as well. And everything we do should be in order to give pleasure to our Creator.
With this we can also understand why, according to one version, the Baal Shem Tov was born because of such a deed.
Some three hundred years ago in the Ukraine there lived a hidden Tzadik called Rabbi Eliezer. This man was so righteous that he was frequently visited by Elijah the prophet (who left this world some 2500 years earlier). One day the prophet came to Rab Eliezer and announced that he was willing to reveal ANY secrets he so desired, including the date of the arrival of Moshiach. This, to a great mystic like him, was the greatest of all presents. His only desire in life was to increase knowledge in order to serve G-d more completely, and this was like a dream come true.
"There is only one condition, however" added Elijah. "You must tell me what you did on your thirteenth birthday.
"Don't worry, I guarantee it will not detract from you portion in heaven. You should know that whatever it was you did made a very great stir in even the highest spiritual worlds but it is not known what it was. Now I have been given permission to reveal all secrets to you if you tell me, and I will reveal it to no one."
But Rabbi Eliezer, without even thinking refused. "I'm sorry" he apologized, what I did was between me and G-d, I want no rewards."
Because of this he was denied the knowledge he so desired, but instead it was decreed that he would have a son that would teach the world how to do what he did; think, speak and act only in order to please the Creator.
And that is why we pray (in the Musaf prayers), for Moshiach to build the third Temple so we can again offer the sacrifices and REALLY do G-d's will.
Not to say that the sacrifices in the first two Temples weren't G-d's will, but rather that then the JEWS didn't sacrifice them with the proper attitude of wanting to give G-d pleasure.
But now we are praying that due to the teachings of the Baal Shem and his followers; the Chabad Rebbes (who called their teachings "Torat HaMoshiach"), we will merit to bring Moshiach and serve G-d with joy and complete surrender in the Third Temple.
It is all in our hands. One more good deed, word or even thought can bring…..